Tag Archives: racism

Racism and Hillary Clinton

 

 

 

If it wasn’t for seven years of the blatant resurgence of racism in America then we might not need Hillary Clinton. Sadly Obama’s presence in the Oval Office allowed racial meanness to rise to the surface in Washington, DC and outside our nation’s capital. When we should have felt proud of America on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, when we should have been celebrating, we were instead seeing the festering remains of racism being exposed in far too many areas of American society.

The Supreme Court struck a huge blow when it said that certain southern states were no longer subject to clearance before they could change their voting laws. The GOP shamelessly began passing restrictions on voting in those same southern states where clearance had been used to guarantee racial fairness in voting. They justified their actions as necessary to circumvent voter fraud, which turned out to be almost nonexistent. They said they were not being anti-Black, they were just making it harder for Democrats to vote, but they knew, all the time, how important the Black vote was to Democrats. They got two licks in for the price of one.

We have seen all too many unarmed Black folks shot under suspicious circumstances by policemen. It begins to seem as if certain individuals join the police force to deliberately wipe out Black people, a sort of vigilante routine. I don’t know if there is a group that has planned this or if this is just lone racists acting on their own and I admit I may be seeing a trend where there is really only a series of terrible accidents, but we should not have racists on our police forces and if there is any way to root them out we should do it.

We have allowed Black folks to languish in poverty in our inner cities – and I don’t mean languish in a nice way – I mean it in a hopeless way. We have not found strategies to entice all young African-Americans into the schools and that is what we need to do. We also need to learn how to make school relevant enough that they will stay and go “all the way” through. We need to stop concentrating poor black, brown, and Asian people in our center cities and find ways, perhaps through real estate options, to intersperse poor Americans in more affluent neighborhoods where people can afford to help lift them up.

Yes, we have finally been made aware of how over-zealously and unequally the War on Drugs was conducted. We have been shocked by the staggering numbers of Americans of African Descent incarcerated for minor drug offenses and the role unaffordable cash bails have played in this. This was one of those cases where a program that folks thought would help solve a problem, exacerbated the problem and created new ones. I’m not sure it was intended as a “racist” policy, it was supposed to “scare people straight” in dangerous inner city neighborhoods, but, in retrospect, we can see that the enforcement of this program affected Africans-Americans far more than white Americans and either the program and/or the enforcement of the program was racist in the way it was implemented in the lives of real people. In this case a flawed answer intended to solve a social problem has produced terrible consequences and most of these consequences were visited upon Black people. If may take decades to turn around the effects of over-incarceration and inappropriately harsh sentencing.

We have also seen how we have allowed the South to revere the defeated Confederacy and to turn the white folks in Southern states into martyrs and heroes in a Civil War we should never have had to fight. We see how this has become another way to keep racial hatred alive – to remind Black folks of their “shameful” roots in our nation and to insure they don’t get “uppity”. How any of this shame accrues to Black folks is impossible to even imagine, unless you grew up in the South I guess.

Americans of African Descent have been here longer than most Americans, although not by choice. If they did not have black or brown skin they would have blended in long ago. Why can’t we get over this idea that the more pigment one has the less human one is? We have to all get past this. What will happen if we are confronted with a truly alien species?

Because the GOP has shown itself to be especially prone to letting “racial” traits and their own fears inform their behavior (or misinform it) we cannot elect a President from among the Republicans. If you consider all of the candidates for the 2016 election Hillary has shown the best understanding of what America needs to do to address fairness, equality, and opportunity for Americans of African Descent. I don’t think Bernie is any more racist than any of us, but I do think he believes his policies will lift all boats and perhaps doesn’t understand the unique obstacles Black Americans face.

I think it might be true that we are nicer when we feel more affluent, when our economy is humming along; but how long must these Americans, who have been here since our beginnings, be kept from the freedoms that should be theirs as well as ours. Clearly this particularly stubborn issue of “racism” did not disappear in more prosperous times, but there was a more generous spirit and it looked, for a while, like things might have turned a corner.

If the existence of all this hate and inequality and separation had not bubbled up from the depths it had been stuffed into, up into the light of day – that would be a bad thing. Let’s not try to contain it away from view of white eyes once again. Let’s try to solve this and heal America once and for all. At the risk of sounding corny perhaps that is what Hillary means when she talks about making America “whole”.

By Nancy Brisson

 

More on Poverty in Our City Centers

I sent an email to the editor of the local paper, The Post-Standard, telling them about the study by The Century Foundation entitled “Architecture of Segregation” which I had read on The Daily Beast website. http://apps.tcf.org/architecture-of-segregation

The study points out, the article in The Post-Standard states, that

“Syracuse has the highest rate of extreme poverty concentrated among blacks and Hispanics out of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, according to a new study of poverty in America.

The study is the latest to examine a decades-long trend in Syracuse, where the city has consistently ranked as having one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

The analysis of census data by a Rutgers University professor shows that extreme poverty continues to spread unabated out of Syracuse’s core to the city’s Near South, Near Southwest and North Side.

In 2000, Syracuse had nine “extreme poverty” neighborhoods, defined as census tracts where more than 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

By 2010, Syracuse had 19 such neighborhoods, according to a 2011 study by the Brookings Institution.

Now the number of high-poverty tracts in Syracuse totals 30, according to Paul Jargowsky the Rutgers University-Camden professor who published the study with The Century Foundation.

“The general trend is that there is a spreading out of poverty,” Jargowsky said in an interview. “That is happening all over the place. But I didn’t know Syracuse was going to stand out the way it did.” “

You can read the entire article here:

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2015/09/syracuse_has_nations_highest_poverty_concentrated_among_blacks_hispanics.html#incart_most-read_

The original article and The Post-Standard article both talk about the fact that when neighborhoods became diverse, white people moved further away and suburban sprawl got further and further from the city center. People in these increasingly distant suburbs wanted the convenience of public infrastructure like city water and being connected to the same sewage grid used by city dwellers (although the infrastructure was clearly much newer). These folks had good salaries and could pay enough taxes to make government responsive to their needs. As more and more tax dollars were spent further from the city center and as the city center emptied out infrastructure in the center of the city was neglected and deteriorated from age and use. When folks left behind in the center city tried to follow white people to the suburbs they found themselves locked out (or locked in). Partly this was because they were poorer than those who left for the suburbs, and partly it was due to actual exclusionary practices.

For these and similar reasons, The Century Foundation study under the direction of Paul Jargowsky (Rutgers) is pointing out this information so that we can find ways to change this paralysis in our center cities. Syracuse is not alone in this situation, although we may be No. 1, perhaps because we are not a rich city, but I believe that we also share in all of the other ways that white people have found to pretend that they are not racist. If you want to see what I mean register on Syracuse.com so you can read the comments of my fellow Syracuse residents who appear to have been brainwashed by Fox News et al and who are Exhibit A in what passes for extreme right wing logic which says that the liberals and the victims are to blame and that this city poverty trap is the result of liberal programs that support the poor and allow them to survive without working. I apologize in advance for their ignorance and their inability to hold an original thought.

The problems with writing off this study as delineating a condition that is ‘someone else’s problem’, is that there are and will be repercussions if this situation continues. It is wrong and we need to tackle the beast and find a way to make America better. Here’s what one of our city officials had to say:

‘Paul Driscoll, Syracuse’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development, said city officials are disturbed by the study’s findings. But he said officials cannot explain why the city seems to be lagging the rest of the nation in reducing its poverty.

“We are all struggling to understand why Syracuse is getting hit worse than other cities,” Driscoll said in an interview. “We’re just looking to address what cities can do to address poverty. We’re finding we’re pretty limited in what we can do. We deal with the consequences at the local level, but a lot of these problems have to be dealt with at the state and federal level.” ‘

I hope this will not be our only response to the information in this study. We live in a city that is home to an important private university. We are a city full of architects (award-winning) and engineers. Certainly a committee could be formed to look for some creative ways to address this stubborn inequality in our community. If it was caused mainly by housing issues and unwillingness to live in mixed race communities then people who deal with housing issues might be exactly the people who can find a way out of this. Once some professional approaches have been discussed and designs produced, perhaps community people (those stuck in poverty) could be invited into the group to go over the plans and offer input. I hope this study does not just plop down with a big thud on our doorsteps and then disappear.

We have all been getting glimpses of what will happen if we do not tackle this now. I do not think that our stranded, poor, neighbors are about to accept much more of being overlooked and over-prosecuted and being deprived of opportunities to succeed. These issues falls into the category of “pay now or pay later” and if we wait until later the price will only get higher. Pretend you are so intimidated by poor minority people that you will do almost anything to defuse the situation. Perhaps that is the only way these folks will get their due.

The New York Times also had an article about this topic. Here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/09/opinion/whose-neighborhood-is-it.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

Think, everyone, think!

By Nancy Brisson

Divide and Conquer

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What was so stunning about the 2014 midterm was not so much the result in Congress. Pundits explained why the Democrats would lose control of the Senate but people like me did not want to accept their analysis. It seemed that we could buck tradition and pull out an upset. But the pundits proved to be right; after all they have studied elections for decades. They knew who would turn out to vote and who would not.

Last week I had the TV on MSNBC while I went about my daily activities and I heard someone predict that the Democrats might not regain control of Congress until 2022. (Yikes!) Before the bloodbath of 2014 I might have thought “hogwash” but now I have to give this prediction credence.

Democrats are in a bind. They have credibility as the party of diversity, a party that includes minorities, but, because the fears of white Americans have been activated (fears of loss of power, loss of privilege) the Democrats may end up as a party that only represents minorities – minorities who often do not vote, who lack financial resources to provide monetary support to Democratic candidates at the time when, more than ever, money “talks” in elections.

If we stop focusing on the ethnic origins that are dividing us Democrats lose their claim to that “diverse” constituency which has been their strength in the past. However, unless we understand that the divisions we experience as racial are actually only cultural, unless we accept that we are all formed from the same genetic materials (did you see Toni Morrison on The Daily Show last week when she stressed this point); unless we understand that we are all Americans, then opposing power groups and those white males holding sway in America right now will dig in deeper and fight with all the desperation they have exhibited so far, and perhaps more, against changes to the status quo which benefits them.

How can the disappointingly quiet and unexciting Democratic Party rephrase its agenda in order to be more inclusive? How can the Democrats who seem so unemotional and who express no clear agenda hope to win back the middle class who have been wooed away by Republican fear-mongering? Stressing and offering strategies to fix the current gap between average Americans and the wealthy is the real winning strategy for Democrats, I believe.

I don’t mean to argue that there are no ethnically specific issues that need to be addressed. Sadly there are. Americans with African origins are imprisoned too often and are too often trapped in poverty. Because schools in poor neighborhoods have more problems and financial challenges, educational opportunities across American ethnic groups are not equal. Americans with Spanish origins often have all the obstacles of the former group with, frequently, the additional rather serious “hiccup” of being in America without documents and, perhaps, not speaking English.

But in many ways the solutions Democrats could offer would work equally well for all of the 99% and these solutions could stress our similarities instead of our differences. The way out of poverty for all is through training and education. The way out of racism where it exists is to end poverty and insure opportunity.

It is possible that the GOP statements which threaten to re-institute the divisions of the Civil War (those suggestions like hanging the Confederate flag in government settings or seceding from the United States) are just reactions to imagined minority threats to the current power elite, but it is equally possible that these remarks are part of a strategy to divide America and conquer, keeping it under control of those Americans who are white, male, wealthy, conservative and fundamentalist Christian. This would also help explain why women are one of the groups being cut from the herd and excoriated. Why would any of us want to be manipulated in these ways? We are all the middle class; we are all the poor; what improves life for one of us should improve life for all of us.

Whether this is strategy or whether it stems from a genuine fear of losing a grip on the reins of power is unimportant; either way we can only undermine it by presenting a united front as the American middle class, that old rainbow coalition which differs only in skin tone, and not in patriotism – that beating heart of America. (The short form of United States reads US. – how hokey is that – a great symbolic coincidence though).

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

A View from the Cheap (White) Seats (for what it’s worth)

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If you are alive and paying even modest attention to the news in America right now then you must have started to have some kind of dialogue (however conflicted) with yourself about the fatal interactions between the police and black men and boys in America. A man named Eric Garner died while being taken into police custody because he was selling loose cigarettes (without paying taxes). Surely this offense doesn’t strike any of us as being punishable by death. He did resist arrest. He did say “don’t touch me”. But, considering his size, he did not make any aggressive moves as he tried to avoid arrest. We all wish he hadn’t resisted because he would probably have been released from jail quickly and be back with his family. Even given his rather puny resistance it seems that he could have been subdued and cuffed with far less force once reinforcements appeared to help the first arresting officer. The fact that watching the video of this interaction makes us cringe is probably a sure sign that officers used excessive force.

The situation with Trayvon Martin should have been easy. Trayvon did nothing wrong. He did something we did often in our own teen years. He walked to a convenient store to get sugar and probably because he was bored. George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon, was not a policeman. This one should have been simple, but we didn’t even get this one right. The police closed in around George Zimmerman as if he were one of their own even though he was a psuedocop. He was studying Criminal Justice in school. Does that count? I don’t think so. The police told him to stand down. He didn’t even follow this very clear order. The policemen who knew George Zimmerman should have realized that he was not a stable individual. American justice could not even convict a psuedocop. That’s pretty damning.

There are things that should bother us about the Michael Brown killing too. Michael Brown may not have been a sweet kid. He was still pretty young but he looked like a man. But Darren Wilson stopped him for jaywalking. Really? And he shot him twelve times. This must seem a bit excessive to even the most jaundiced observer. My first thought was that Darren Wilson did some drug business with Michael Brown and Michael Brown was threatening to expose him so he executed him. Of course, there are no facts to suggest that this is in any way true, but it was my first thought because the number of holes in Michael Brown’s body just seemed so outrageous. Listening to Darren Wilson describe his Hulk Hogan- monster scenario convinces me that he just never should have been allowed to put on a uniform.

A twelve-year-old boy in Cleveland with a toy rifle – really? Doesn’t this strike everyone as just wrong? Tamir Rice was killed by a rookie cop with a terrible record on his handgun tests. How is the police department screening recruits these days? Screening should be tougher than ever given that police are trusted to operate war surplus gear and armored vehicles that can squash Americans like flies.

Police in American have long been a brotherhood. If you watch Blue Bloods or any of the shows about the police force, the writers explore the disadvantages of a system that protects cops whether they are good ones or bad ones. People resent this brotherhood in the same way that they resent tenure among teachers which can also make it almost impossible to fire bad teachers. But here we have a systemic problem that is affecting one portion of the American population more than any other. And the proliferation of arms in the general population and in the targeted population is not helping the situation. Obviously police are nervous when they arrest citizens in general, but black men in particular, that their suspected “perp” will have a weapon and this makes the police react as if their life is in the balance (which it sometimes is).

I am not really clear why the police are so nervous when arresting black men for really minor offenses like selling loose cigarettes or jaywalking. Why bother to arrest them at all when these offenses are unlikely to undermine American society. One would think that there must be more to these arrests, perhaps a history of animosity, an escalation of disrespect felt by both parties. This certainly does not explain the twelve-year-old boy, Tamir Rice. Are there bigoted police officers on police forces throughout America? We already believe that this is most likely true. Can we find a way to make sure that all police officers are without prejudice?

We may not know how to solve the biases that are apparently present among America’s policemen or how to change a system that has to protect inept cops, or crooked cops, or cops who are frightened of criminals, or unstable cops, but we may be closer to accepting that the system requires some fixes and these need to come sooner rather than later. In today’s Daily Beast Michael Tomasky wrote The Only Way to End Police Violence in which he suggested that things need to change at the front end of the process out in the community and in recruit screening as opposed to the back end of the process after tragedy has already happened. He says,

“This is not going to change in America, at least for many, many years. Ask yourself: What would it take, really, for your average white cop not to see your average black male young adult as a potential threat? Because we can pass all the ex-post facto laws we want, and we can even convict the occasional police officer, which does happen from time to time. But that’s not where the problem starts. The problem starts in that instant of electric mistrust when the cop reaches for his gun, or employs a homicidal chokehold. That moment is beyond the reach of legislation, or of any punishment that arrives after the fact.”

He speaks to nothing less than changing our entire cultural reaction to black men, reacting in a way that values them, creating opportunities for them that give them value as people who contribute to American society. He speaks to a system that does not categorize people based on something as superficial as skin color. His solutions are not quick fixes; they involve an almost tectonic shift in American culture. But tectonic shifts do happen, some are slow and some are fast, some are easily accommodated, others are terribly disruptive. We need something fast but not terribly disruptive and that probably is a tough get. Racism seems to be a persistent strain in American life and we have not found very successful ways to wipe it out.

So we’ll try. At least we’ll try and demonstrations will perhaps force us to really try hard to end the senseless killing of unarmed black men and boys and to put aside our age-old prejudices. These killings are pitiful and sad and embarrassing, especially for a nation that was supposed to be a world leader in protecting civil rights.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Midstream Hindsight

 

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Obama still has about 2 ½ years to mess up, but I have to take a moment to say that he was the perfect President for this particular point in time. First of all there is his character, which has proven to be thoughtful, kind, steady, and intelligent. I had a gut feeling from the very beginning that Obama was a good man. And although I was all primed for Hillary and we might have found her at the nexus of the women’s rights issues we have been dealing with, I believe it has been more important to have a person of color as President right now. I further believe that it was especially important to elect such a man as Obama, who should not be the polarizing figure he is at all, because he is, at base, a man who comprehends the power of being fair and even-handed. I don’t care what the Republicans have to say about this, because fairness and even-handedness are two qualities that could not be ascribed to them in these post-Bush years.

So we have been able to see, displayed across the media screen of our nation, America’s great national racial divide. It has all been regurgitating forth, ugly, but honest, showing us that we are nowhere near done with this issue that we have so much difficulty talking about.

Once white people were informed that their hegemony was about to be toppled by the sheer numbers of minority people who now reside in America and who consider themselves Americans, the cry went up – the giant “no”, the big denial among all the denials right down to the desire to deny the power of the federal government. Out came all the desire to back up, perhaps all the way back to the civil war. Out came the present attempts and cries for a “do-over”, for “whoa, how did this happen”, for “we don’t want to be here so we are going to figure out a strategy to reverse the arc of American History. (And the whole situation has been a twofer because all the women’s rights stuff has been vomited up too.)

In answer to that giant “no”, we have had minority communities answering back and speaking up for the obvious inequalities that they have been living with even with civil rights laws in place. We are looking at the data and it is data we knew about in our hearts. We knew that economic equality often stopped at the edges of minority communities. We knew about the inordinately high arrest rates. We knew about the educational challenges faced in minority neighborhoods and we knew that the financial formulas we use for state aid to education place poorer neighborhoods at a distinct disadvantage for future success. We knew that there are still such things as “minority” neighborhoods.

We have not been as informed about illegal immigrants and most Americans still suspect that illegal immigrants receive money from government programs which they believe should only prop up legal citizens. What we haven’t heard until now is what minority people have to say about these and other injustices. It’s not that it isn’t being studied. It’s not that it isn’t being written about. It is about the lack of a public forum that was ready to listen. The Obama Presidency has given all of this a chance to be exposed, to be statistically examined, and to be debated.

We have been moved by the election of a man of color to the crux of the dialectic (and no, dialectic does not have to be a strictly Marxist term) and the battle is joined by those at the extremes. Will there be a synthesis (will the fever break) to relieve the social stresses we have been going through? Will we slip back to the past or broker a future that is the antithesis to the theses of the past?

So Obama’s skin color is the second potent factor of his Presidency, although he had been hoping it would not be. He had been hoping to be accepted as a statesman, not obstructed as a black man. The only thing some Americans do not have in common with Obama is his skin color. In every other way he is as American as any of us. We should all be dreaming a strong, free, fair, and prosperous America together, but we have come down with a case of Caucasian Flu, a giant hiccup standing in the way of solving the problems the planet must solve quickly.

It is embarrassing to have the whole world see how we have failed, but it has been so productive to be here and to have these conversations, finally. Once these conversations have begun let us hope that there will be, at some point, an enlightened resolution, and not a retreat to the ignorance, a retreat to the unearned and undeserved domination of one group over another based on something as superficial as skin color. I believe Obama’s legacy will loom large in America and in the world for centuries (should we live so long) and he will be considered among our greatest Presidents (if he can just get through 2 ½ more years without falling prey to that second term curse so many in the political media talk about).

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>